In a few weeks, many underprivileged children in the state will hold a book that was given to them by someone like us in the city, who had a few books to spare. Giving them this opportunity is the ‘Aviva Great Wall of Education’ presented by The Hindu, a book donation drive that targeted at children at the elementary school level. And who better than authors of children’s books to tell us what would keep little minds interested?
Gita Wolf who has authored more than 15 books for children, feels that books should be fun and not didactic. “An interesting narrative with a lot of pictures thrown in is the perfect blend that makes children respond positively,” she says.
Anushka Ravishakar, who is another popular children’s books author feels that children deserve to hold books that look good and are nicely produced. “An encyclopedia for instance is something that would capture the child’s mind simply because it is most often very beautifully done and has a lot interesting information flanked by big pictures,” she says.
Most of us are surrounded by books — at bookstores, libraries, schools and little collections at home. But, for some children books don’t figure in their lives beyond school books, if they went to school, gleaming books on store shelves, and the ones seen thrown away at the old paper mart.
The question of whether the child is able to connect to the book in hand surfaces at the end of any book donation drive for children. “A friend of mine was surprised to find that his driver’s children did not know how a lion looked. That is because we often assume that children of a particular age are aware of certain things we think are commonplace enough - like animals,” says Anushka. Ensuring that children have books to read is not the only important thing. Efforts to make them relate and identify with the book’s contents are essential too, she adds.
Speaking on the availability of books for children, especially in Tamil, Deeya Nayar, of Tulika Books feels that the visibility of Tamil books is lesser compared to English books. “The quality of English books for children is a lot better than that of their counterparts in Tamil, making them the less preferred lot among children,” she says. On a general note, she thinks that children are open-minded about what they are given to read as long as they are attractively packaged and capable of keeping them interested.
Echoing the purpose of the drive, Gita says, “There is nothing better than giving books to children”. On how the given books could be put to use, she feels that a library system that helps children choose books, coupled with supervised reading sessions would do much to cultivate the habit of reading among children.